Denver and the Beat Generation

When Jack Kerouac went On the Road in 1947, he had one destination in mind: Denver, Colorado. Thus began the Mile-High City's crucial role in one of the most influential groups of writers and poets of the 20th Century, the Beat Generation.

What drew the Beats to Denver was Beatnik prototype Neal Cassady. Cassady, aka The Holy Goof; aka Western Kinsman of the Sun, spent his childhood on the notorious Larimer Street Skid Row and was as out of step with the mass conformity of postwar America as one could possibly hope to be. His influence on literary giants such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg was undeniably profound. 

While Cassady cast a long shadow, he wasn't Denver's only connection to the Beat Generation. Local architect Ed White is actually the person who connected the Beats with Cassady while attending New York University. While White wasn't technically part of the Beat Generation, he bears plenty of responsibility for their development. (White also contributed mightily to Denver by way of the many buildings he designed, including the dome at the Denver Botanic Gardens.)

Although the Denver that the Beats experienced is long gone, their footprints are still out there for researchers and casual fans to explore. To help facilitate that research, the Denver Public Library's Special Collections and Archives Department has plenty of material on the Beat Generation, Neal Cassady, their time in Denver, and the legacy they left behind.